Recovering from Your Affair
By: Staci Lee Schnell, M.S., C.S., LMFT
August 29, 2016
Recovering from Your Affair
If you are the one who cheated, you are probably dealing with emotions of guilt and shame. Perhaps you are even angry with yourself or your spouse. You may also be experiencing grief from the loss of your affair partner or fear of losing your spouse. Dealing with all of these emotions is essential for putting the pieces of your life back together and for your affair recovery. Attending therapy with a Marriage and Family Therapist with vast experience in affair recovery can be indispensable in the recovery process.
Guilt not only occurs once the affair is over. You have probably been struggling with your guilt for some time. Guilt is a way in which you unconsciously judge your own actions. The sense of guilt typically begins long before your partner learns about the affair. There are a number of reasons for you to feel guilty. If fidelity is important to you and your spouse, then having an affair is bound to make you feel guilty. The most obvious reason is that you betrayed the trust of your partner, about whom you cared deeply enough to marry. This in itself generates a great deal of guilt. Having an emotional or physical connection with someone other than your spouse is also a reason to feel guilty. Understanding the guilt allows you to move forward.
Another common emotion you have most likely been experiencing is shame. Shame is the disgrace you feel in front of others when you have engaged in an act that is seen as unacceptable. There are many things about which to feel ashamed when you have cheated on your partner. You may feel ashamed that you hurt and betrayed your spouse, in-laws, and children. Feeling as though you let down yourself and your own morals and values can elicit great feelings of shame as well. Making amends with your spouse can help the shame decrease while increasing the reconnection process. By making things right with your partner, you feel stronger and less shameful.
It is natural for you to be angry. You are probably angry with yourself for having gotten involved in an affair to begin with, beating yourself up for your poor choice. Perhaps you are experiencing anger at yourself for having the emotional responses to the affair that you do, wondering why you care for your affair partner. You may feel like you don’t deserve to have these feelings, and angry that you do. It’s possible to even have anger toward your spouse; thinking things like if my spouse was meeting my emotional, physical, and/or spiritual needs I wouldn’t have looked elsewhere.
Perhaps you are grappling with the feelings of loss of your affair partner. Understanding that it’s a breakup you are going through can actually be helpful. Discussing your mourning with your therapist is recommended for an impartial and non-judgmental view. Being honest about these feelings of loss with your spouse can be very hurtful. It is therefore highly suggested and recommended to attend marriage counseling with a highly skilled affair recovery therapist.
You are probably fearful that your marriage is damaged beyond repair, and fear the loss of your marriage and family. You fear as if you’ve reached a place where you may not be forgiven. This worry often extends beyond the need for forgiveness from your partner. Some people feel as though they can’t be or shouldn’t be forgiven long after their spouse has extended forgiveness and moved forward.
Remember to be compassionate with yourself. You are human after all; and humans make poor choices and decisions all the time. If you learn from your mistakes, work through and process all these emotions, you can heal, recover and move forward from the affair.
Learning why you cheated is important to understand, so that it won’t happen again. Are affairs a habit for you or was it a onetime mistake that you will never repeat again? Were you looking to get your emotional, physical, or spiritual needs met? The fact that you had an affair, whether it was an ongoing affair or a one night stand, is a sign that there are significant problems within your marital relationship that need to be addressed and worked on in order to repair your marriage. The issues and problems may be clear or they may be less obvious. Identifying and dealing with the issues and problems is necessary in order to fix them. It not only shows that you’ve taken the time to work things through, but it also shows that you are committed to you marriage.
After processing your own feelings and emotions and understanding the problems and issues that led you to cheat, you can then help your partner heal from your deception and infidelity. Communication is everything in the recovery process. Communicating in an open, honest, patient, candid, kind and remorseful way is important in making amends. Being fully transparent about what happened in a humble way will actually help your spouse. It is often lack of communication that led to your marriage getting off the emotionally connected track. Establishing new, consistent and better lines of communication is the first step in recovery for both of you.
If you and your spouse both feel supported, loved, respected, and safe enough to discuss your feelings during the recovery period, your chances of a complete recovery will be greatly improved. The healing journey takes patience, courage, inner strength and time for both you and your spouse to heal. During the process if you are dependable, consistent, responsive and comforting to your spouse you too will feel better.